Freelance photographer Andy Kershaw visited Fargate with his wife on Wednesday for the first time in a month for an afternoon of shopping.
But the trip left the longtime Sheffield resident feeling glum from seeing stores in prime spots “empty, on sale or up for let”.
He told the Star: “I was just shocked by the number of empty shops and felt really dispirited.
“I know it’s not new to say it but when you consider Leeds or Liverpool or Manchester or even Leicester who don’t seem to have the same problem you wonder what’s going wrong in Sheffield.”
He chose to capture his experience on camera and snap the empty shops he came across and share them online.
Only, the images have struck a nerve with Sheffield residents, who replied to Andy to share their complaints with shopping in the city centre.
“It’s caused quite a storm of comments online,” said Andy, who returned to his pictures to find over 150 people had shared their own grievances.
They ranged from despairing at how bricks and mortar can’t compete with online giants like Amazon, the “intimidating” atmosphere of going to town and finding parking as a disabled person, to criticisms of the city council for enacting the one-way traffic system.
“Lush is like a beautifully scented island in a sea of nothingness,” said one resident of the shop on Fargate.
Andy said: “Whether it’s subsidizing businesses rates or encouraging smaller businesses to open or offering shops up for residential spaces, the council really needs to show some leadership.”
Earlier this year, Sheffield City Council secured a £15.8m bid for funding from the Government Future High Streets fund to use in redesigning the city centre for different uses.
It reportedly aims to renovate Fargate and High Street, with plans including creating a multi-storey events hub, pocket parks and hundreds of flats.
Measures to retain existing shops such as Marks & Spencer and Boots are on the agenda, as is creating a more attractive environment for visitors.
Under the funding requirements, the plans must be realised by March 2024.